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Debate hears Roma across Europe still subject to discrimination and hatred

Murska Sobota, 7 August - Marking the 2 August Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, a panel debate held in Murska Sobota on Friday heard that it was important to remember the Nazi genocide against the Roma as a reminder as Roma were still subjected to discrimination and hate crimes across Europe.

Murska Sobota
Miha Lobnik, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, addresses a debate marking the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, observed on 2 August.
Photo: Marjan Maučec/STA

Murska Sobota
Miha Lobnik, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, addresses a debate marking the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, observed on 2 August.
Photo: Marjan Maučec/STA

Murska Sobota
Jožek Horvat Muc, the head of the Slovenian Roma Association, addresses a debate marking the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, observed on 2 August.
Photo: Marjan Maučec/STA

Murska Sobota
Miha Lobnik, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, visiting a display marking the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, observed on 2 August.
Photo: Marjan Maučec/STA

Miha Lobnik, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, noted that apart from other victims, half a million of Romany people lost their lives during the Third Reich, and many more were persecuted.

He said Porajmos, or the genocide of the Roma during World War II, should never get repeated, and remembering the horrors was not intended only for the victims, but also to form a collective memory about where we come from and which tragedies from the past we should learn from to have a brighter future.

He said the number of reports of discrimination, intolerance and hate crimes kept increasing as many Roma across Europe were still subjected to hatred and their communities were despised.

"This specific form of racism thrives on the lie about the Roma as an odd group out in society and distorted and exclusively negative presentation of members of the Romany community," said Lobnik.

He expects positive change from the new EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, which he sees as a new opportunity for Slovenia and other EU countries to take measures to improve the Roma's status in society, grant them equality and thus break the vicious circle of poverty handed down from one generation to another.

Jožek Horvat Muc, the head of the Slovenian Roma Association, said that the situation of the Roma in Europe was deteriorating. He noted that in some countries police beat Roma or even killed them, without any reaction to the events.

"Hate speech in the European space is so strong that it provokes ant-Roma activities, last but not least in Prekmurje, even though we say the position [of the Roma] in Prekmurje and in Slovenia is exemplary," said Horvat.

He said that hate speech also came from political parties, and their platforms, but various European governments would not grapple with the issue. They talk about sanctions, but there are no measures and no European government acts to prevent such occurrences, said Horvat.

The panel debate also featured European Roma officials Dragoljub Acković from Serbia, Orhan Galjus from the Netherlands and Emina Šemo from North Macedonia, among others.

They maintained that the position of the Roma was not good in any aspect anywhere in Europe, but some of the speakers also noted progress with increasing numbers of Roma across Europe getting an education and getting actively involved in various walks of life, being recognised as ethnic minorities ad having their representatives in parliaments.

Some also wondered why the Roma in Slovenia still do not have their representative at the National Assembly.

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© STA, 2021